Hunger Is Not a Disease

Motel 19 and The Good Neighbor Food Pantry




“When we talk cooking and eating, we are talking love, since the entire history of how a family loves – where and how they learned to love can be told in most kitchens.” – Marion Roach Smith
EVERYONE COMING TO A PANTRY TRAVELS DOWN A PATH. For many, this journey is a real load lightener. As the finances erode, the housing goes. And, of course, when the house or apartment goes, most of what was in it, goes too.
Furniture, kitchen items, toys, clothes, tools, garden implements, books, photos, souvenirs – by the timne a person or family gets to Motel 19, things have been slimmed down to a few clothes, a blanket or two, a hot plate, or maybe an electric skillet. Maybe a toy or two if there are children.
ABOUT 40 HOUSEHOLDS ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE IN MOTEL 19. Half of these households are composed of individuals. The other half are families. For the families living in Motel 19, the children are usually eligible for the school breakfast and/or lunch program. But, that doesn’t give them enough to eat at home. And, there’s no lunch program for the adults.
So…it’s off to the pantry.
PANTRIES ARE IMPORTANT FOR PROVIDING FOOD. If someone in a household can get food, bring it back to whatever and wherever is home at the time, prepare it, and serve it, a feeling that some part of the family’s routine has returned to normal. This act of preparing and serving food can be very grounding to everyone in the household.
Soup kitchens are wonderful places for people to eat but can’t substitute for pantries. Pantries are cheaper to maintain, for one thing. A soup kitchen staff, needed to prepare the food, serve it, and clean up after each meal, is more expensive than a pantry staff. Soup kitchens purchase napkins, cutlery, etc. Pantries are generally composed of volunteers. Soup kitchens have paid staff. Soup kitchens are absolutely essential for those who have no kitchens or roof at all.
Because of the cost of gas, several families at Motel 19 pile in a car and come over on pantry day. Or, an individual hitchhikes.
THE PEOPLE LIVING IN MOTEL 19 ARE, ON ONE LEVEL, VERY FORTUNATE because a minimum wage worker can easily work more than a week just to pay the rent on a tiny apartment or room.
Not everyone in a low-income household can get into Motel 19. Low-income wage earners are forced to choose between rent, gas, health care, and groceries. Living in this situation means living with hunger on a daily basis.
Motel 19 is a real lifesaver for many people sent over from the Department of Social Services when they’re homeless. Individuals, couples, families. Each household, whether one person or a family, gets one room at Motel 19. The room is furnished with a single bed, a bathroom, a small refrigerator, a microwave, and a TV. The place is a functioning motel so the residents also get clean towels and sheets weekly.
At one time, Motel 19 had a restaurant on the premises but it’s been closed awhile. Word on the street is that a pizza restaurant is coming soon. There’s a car dealership in the parking area outside the front of Motel 19. Shamrock Sales has about five or six used vehicles for sale. No one seems interested in them.
BAD BACK BOB MADE MOTEL 19 FAMOUS FOR US because, when he began coming to our pantry, he spoke about his neighbors and also brought some of them over to shop. This was a real accomplishment because these people, though very fortunate to be living in Motel 19, are trapped without transportation. Motel 19 is located at the intersection of Routes 28, 209, and 87 on the edge of Kingston. Without a bicycle or car, any person trying to get somewhere is looking for a long hike.
Imagine being a young mother with an infant or child trying to get to a grocery store, doctor, or even a soup kitchen for that matter. IMAGINE WALKING DOWN THE HIGHWAY WHERE CARS ARE TRAVELLING faster than 45 miles per hour with this infant or child in your arms. Add rain, freezing rain, or a snow storm.
Bob always thought about his neighbors when he volunteered. He reminded us that not everyone can deal with the bureaucracy of a pantry and he always took some of his three-day allotment of food home, cooked it in his crock pot, and shared it with these special neighbors.
And, Bob is right. On the one hand, our pantry has very little bureaucracy because we never ask for any ID or documentation. We ask only that the person give us his/her name, the number of persons in the household, and the breakdown of seniors, adults, and children. We need those statistics for the monthly Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program report. We’re given our line of credit for food based on these numbers. The more households, seniors, adults, and children, the more food for our pantry.
Even though the pantry has very few documentation requirements, we more than made up for the paperwork with our building guidelines. Everyone, including volunteers, was only allowed in the building during certain times…no exceptions.
When it was time for the shoppers to be allowed in the building, they were invited in five people at a time. The shoppers were allowed to stand in a single file line in the hallway. There were only three chairs available in the hallway and there were typically over fifty people waiting in line. No one was allowed to touch the walls. The wait in the hallway was often over an hour.
PEOPLE CAME INTO THE PANTRY ROOM IN GROUPS OF FOUR. They went around the room in a single file and were in the room no more than three or four minutes. They shopped for a three-day-supply of food which lasted for seven days.
THIS POST SENDS OUT A SPECIAL REQUEST: Motel 19 residents really need pantry services. Walking down Route 28 to get into Kingston is challenging for some and scary for others. Life would be beautiful if some kind souls can open a Pocket Pantry. Or maybe some other pantry in Kingston can send over food every week. Or maybe some mobile food pantry can include Motel 19 in the regular route. Contact me if you have questions.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

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